Steven L. Smith, Bellingham, WA Home Inspector (King of the House)


Painful Transitions -- Caught in Catch 22

Some of the consequences of the new Washington State Home Inspector Licensing Laws have ruffled a few feathers. Of course, that is to be expected and before it is all done I am sure that more feathers will be ruffled. Change, and rules, always lead to some disgruntled people.

So far, one consequence that I did not see coming, involves home inspector training. As a member of the licensing board and the home inspection program coordinator at Bellingham Technical College, this one has me caught in the door as someone keeps opening and closing it on my head.

The problem is caused by a simple enough situation. The new law states that, as of September 1, 2009, anyone who had not been in the field at least two years, as of the effective date of the law (June 12, 2008), must take an approved 120 hour home inspection course and acquire 40 hours of field training before obtaining a license. Those who had been working as inspectors, as of that date, will have until the end of June of the next year to do so. Those who had done at least 100 inspections and had two years experience, can bypass education requirements. Every inspector will have to take a test. Since the new law is only a few months away from taking effect, that means anyone paying for training now needs to make sure it is an approved course. Otherwise, they are likely to be throwing their money away.

That is the rub. This all takes more time than was anticipated. The Home Inspector Licensing Board has been busy trying to write rules that make sense and, within the last month we finally approved a model curriculum for approved training. Furthermore, just this past week we approved the new standards of practice and code of ethics. Since it is mandatory that the standards be taught in approved courses, no course could be approved until those standards were adapted.

Bottom Line: We are now probably a couple months out from the State Department of Licensing reviewing applications and then approving the first training courses.

Now here is the problem that has students frazzled. At Bellingham Technical College, for more than a decade, we have taught inspection classes. Because there are no approved courses, including our own state college level class, we are delaying running any classes until approval of the course is assured/granted. So far, I have had to cancel two classes that were set to run and had students signed-up. We had thought, months back, that things would be farther along than they are. The last class I canceled would have begun this coming February. We have some disgruntled potential students. They want into the field and a couple of them were signed up in both classes that were later canceled. Not understanding the circumstances, I think some of them think we are being troublesome, just canceling classes because we do not want to run them. As a result of that concern, I am writing this post and including the information that follows. I think, in the future, I will send students who want to know why we are not running the inspection classes to this post.

Here is my letter.

Dear prospective student,

There is a problem providing you with training at this time. Actually there are two issues here. What I am telling you is illustrated below with information from the State of Washington website. First, you will see that, since you are planning to enter the field at this time, you have no chance of being grandfathered in. To be temporarily grandfathered in would require two years experience and a minimum of 100 inspections, as of June 12, 2008. There is no question about it, you will have to complete training at an APPROVED school if you wish to enter the field. If you were to train now, since no schools are approved by the state, you are taking a big risk and you might be paying for training that will, later, not count in the eyes of the state. The law says:

Education and experience

You must have the following education and experience before you can apply for a home inspector license.

  • If you have less than 2 years experience, you must have:
    • 120 hours of classroom instruction in board-approved courses. The school or instructor will be required to give you a certificate showing you successfully completed the course, and submit copies of the completion certificates to us.
    • 40 hours of field training supervised by a licensed home inspector in good standing. The board will advise us how applicants will be required to prove they have completed this training. The home inspector who supervises you may be required to sign a statement that you have successfully completed your field training.

It is possible, but not by any means a certainty, that some schools might end up having previous courses approved retroactively. We do not know. That not being a sure thing, I think it best to delay classes until everything is ironed out. Some of you have asked, and are wondering, where you can go -- right now -- to get training. I am afraid that the honest answer is "nowhere."  As I said, there are no approved schools. If any school tells you that they are approved, that is inaccurate information. The state department of licensing has warned schools that they may not advertise that their courses are approved.

We know this is a catch 22 -- You must have taken state approved training to get into the field  but, right now, no such training is available anywhere on earth. All I can say is to keep checking in with me and I will try to let everyone know the ongoing status of home inspector education and the BTC program. We are all working in the right direction, but this process takes time. The message from the state, warning all schools to refrain from advertising that they offer approved education at this time, is below.  

TO: All Home Inspector Education Providers

FROM: Home Inspector Program Staff


The Department has received several telephone calls as well as emails

from people asking about, or telling us that they have completed the

"approved" course work necessary to become a Home Inspector.

The Home Inspector Board is the authority responsible for establishing

course approvals requirements. The Board anticipates they will make

these determinations in the very near future. There are no approved

courses at this time.

Please be advised that schools providing education/training to students

seeking to use the course work to become licensed should tell their

students that the course work has not been evaluated or approved.

Thank you for cooperation.

Steven L. Smith

Bellingham WA Home Inspections


Steven L. Smith

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Comment balloon 10 commentsSteven L. Smith • January 11 2009 10:29AM


Good resource Steve---hopefully it will get ironed out satisfactorily---soon.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) over 9 years ago

Hey Steve when your done with Washington maybe you'd like to come to Ohio and set this thing up.  You've got the experience and I for one wouldn't touch it with a 10' pole.

Posted by Jack Gilleland (Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton) over 9 years ago


I think in the longrun it will work out okay. I figured it was better to be involved in the process, rather than complaining about the process. I think what we are ending up with is an improvement. I also think it has not gone overboard either.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 9 years ago

Steven, Your approach is very sensible and in the long run is saving these students potentially wasted time and money. They of course may find it hard to see that from their perspective.

I was caught in a similar catch 22 here back in 2000 when the law was passed to license home inspectors in CT. Schools and curriculum's were not yet approved and I had to wait almost a year before it was resolved.

I am somewhat amazed at the vagueness of the field training period. 40 hours is certainly an extremely short period of time. The other thing is how is that recorded. Here in CT we have a 100 fee paid home inspections under the supervision of a licensed inspector. The classroom training is shorter, 45 hours.

The problem here a few years ago when things were booming was inspectors who just received their licenses were then training new inspectors. The law does not specify any amount of experience or other criteria for a home inspector supervisor/trainer. So you had green guys training greener guys. That is something here I would like to see better defined.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 9 years ago


The 40 hours is essentially what we have in the BTC program and have for years. It is certainly a minimum. The reason we did not go with more in the law, from what I can see, is a problem similar to what you describe. Also, some of the inspectors were, already, posting on boards about how they would mentor new recruits for about $200 per inspection. They were seeing this as a way to bolster more business if inspections dwindled. I for one, lobbied for something more like 40 hours. It is certainly a minimum but if handled right it, hopefully, lets the green people know how much they do not know. Making a real long mentoring period, based on the way the industry was talking, had the potential to cost a fortune and be too financially impossible for new people to get involved in. Figure 100 inspections, even at $100 per pop. Add to that the cost of about 4500 for the approved course. Anyway, I suggested to the state that, if they were to do that, they needed to be willing to setup mentored training so it would not cost students 10 to 20 k for the mentoring. This is how I recall it and why I think we ended up as we did.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 9 years ago


Bolster business when inspection dwindle by training new inspectors does not work. I know several inspectors here that have mentored many newbies. I would say over half quit before completing the 100 inspections needed for licensing. Some guys just go to work for someone, so they get paid for their time working toward the license.

What I can tell you from my experience here in CT and from what I've learned from other inspectors is that licensing increases the number of inspectors in a State. In CT the detriments to achieving a license you pointed out , cost and length of apprenticeship, do not reduce or deter the number of individuals seeking home inspector licenses.

Your logic was sound and empathetic to those seeking to enter the profession. Time will tell if changes, more accurately what changes will be necessary as you move forward with your States licensing program.

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) over 9 years ago


Thanks for keeping your neighbors up to date.  I like your idea of getting involved instead of complaining. 

I am sure things will get ironed out soon.  Good luck in the mean time.

Posted by Jim Allhiser, Salem, Oregon Home Inspector (Perfection Inspection, Inc.) over 9 years ago

While Washington State Licensing is a good thing for the inspectors who have been around awhile and do things right, (it will keep the fly-by-nights out, hopefully) don't forget that the STATE is running this.  There is nothing like bureaucracy!

Posted by George Anderson (Building Tech Inspections) over 9 years ago


Glad the information helped in Oregon.



I am on the state board, but will not argue that. When government is involved it slows things down.

Posted by Steven L. Smith, Bellingham WA Home Inspector (King of the House Home Inspection, Inc.) over 9 years ago

Steven, great job. I am sure once the disappointed students are directed to this they will understand. Most will probably be thankful for the time and money that may have been saved. Good to see someone looking out for the consumer. Keep up the good work.

Posted by Ian Niquette (Square One Home Inspection) over 9 years ago